North Dakota agency recommends approving oil refinery permit

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal

BELFIELD, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Water Commission is recommending approval for an energy company to withdraw water from an underground formation for a proposed oil refinery near a national park, but for slightly less water than the developer requested.

Meridian Energy Group has made a request to withdraw nearly 197 meters of water annually from a brine formation more than 1,500 meters underground, The Bismarck Tribune reported. The water would be used in the proposed Davis Refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Belfield.

The water commission is recommending a permit for about 90 percent of the company's request, which is equivalent to 190 million gallons per year. The water commission's decision is based on the company telling the North Dakota Public Service Commission that it plans to build a small oil refinery.

The water permit application has prompted opposition, but the water commission has concluded that the company's request isn't expected to impact water availability.

Hydrologist Kimberly Fischer said in her recommendation that the concerns that have been raised are outside of the State Water Commission's criteria.

"While there may be an impact to visitors' experiences due to the construction of a refinery, it is outside of the authority of the state engineer to deny a water permit application due to the visual impact of having an industrial development near a national park," Fischer said.

Meridian CEO William Prentice has said the company hasn't drilled test wells yet to determine the quality of water at the site, but the company is planning to do so in the coming weeks.